EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 378, Number 3, November II 2001
Page(s) 847 - 860
Section Formation, structure and evolution of stars
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20011157

A&A 378, 847-860 (2001)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20011157

Neutron star blackbody contraction during flaring in X 1624-490

M. Balucinska-Church1, 2, R. Barnard1, M. J. Church1, 2 and A. P. Smale3

1  School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
    e-mail: mbc@star.sr.bham.ac.uk
2  Institute of Astronomy, Jagiellonian University, ul. Orla 171, 30-244 Cracow, Poland
3  Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics, Code 662, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA Also, Universities Space Research Association
    e-mail: alan@osiris.gsfc.nasa.gov

(Received 12 January 2001 / Accepted 16 August 2001)

We present results of an extensive investigation of the physical changes taking place in the emission regions of the LMXB X 1624-490 during strong flaring in observations made using RXTE in 1997 and 1999. Based on the detailed light curve, we propose that the flaring consists of a superposition of X-ray bursts. It is shown that major changes take place in the blackbody emission component, the temperature $kT_{\rm {BB}}$ increasing to $\sim $2.2 keV in flaring. Remarkably, the blackbody area decreases by a factor of $\sim $5 in flaring. During flare evolution, the blackbody luminosity remains approximately constant, constituting a previously unknown Eddington limiting effect which we propose is due to radiation pressure of the blackbody as $kT_{\rm {BB}}$ increases affecting the inner disk or accretion flow resulting in a decreased emitting area on the star. We argue that the large decrease in area cannot be explained in terms of modification of the blackbody spectrum by electron scattering in the atmosphere of the neutron star. The height of the emitting region on the non-flaring neutron star is shown to agree with the height of the inner radiatively-supported accretion disk as found for sources in the ASCA survey of LMXB of Church & Balucinska-Church (2001). The decrease in height during flaring is discussed in terms of possible models, including radial accretion flow onto the stellar surface and the theory of accretion flow spreading on the neutron star surface of Inogamov & Sunyaev (1999). We demonstrate that the intensity of the broad iron line at 6.4 keV is strongly correlated with the luminosity of the blackbody emission from the neutron star, and discuss the probable origin of this line in the ADC. Finally, possible reasons for non-detection of a reflection component in this source, and LMXB in general, are discussed.

Key words: X rays: stars -- stars: individual: X 1624-490 -- stars: neutron -- binaries: close -- accretion: accretion disks

Offprint request: M. Balucinska-Church, mbc@star.sr.bham.ac.uk

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